Broadie fishing 101
I first fished for broadbill three years ago, when one of my mates asked if I wanted to give it a try. So ‘Little Miss Never Caught a Marlin Let Alone A Swordfish’ said, “Yeah, let’s do it!”
Hitting the water at the crack of dawn meant that we were able to spend maximum time soaking our baits. The first hit came not long before 9am on our second drop, with the line going slack – a typical broadbill bite. But despite winding my butt off, I couldn’t match the speed of this fish. The line was still angling straight down when a massive broadbill suddenly burst up onto the surface and started windscreen-wiping, not 50 metres to our port side. Jed and I looked at each other and screamed together, “IT’S A SWORD!”
Same as sailfish and marlin, swordfish have the ability to turn their stomachs inside out, enabling them to get rid of the spines, beaks, bones and teeth of the prey consumed, and it’s also how they deal with baited hooks. Swordfish battles often end this way, and that’s what happened to us.
Disappointed but excited, we dropped another bait down, and on the descent the line took off and then went slack – we were on again! So I wound furiously once more, but that sword spat the bait as well.
It was hours before we had another bite, which we’d agreed Jed would wind in. It took only minutes for the very green fish to reveal itself – jumping uncomfortably close to the outboard.
While I was grabbing the gaff, Jed took hold of the leader, but by the time I got back the fish had gone under the boat and was jumping on the other side. Seconds later saw it back under the boat again, before jumping and landing on top of the electric windlass, where it became temporarily stuck. Then, after swinging back and forth a few times, it spat the bait and splashed back in, never to be seen again.
This was one of those moments when you look at each other and just crack up laughing. If Jed hadn’t been there to witness it with me, I would have questioned what I’d just seen.
What an introduction to sword fishing – but, sadly, it’s not always this way.
I won’t bore you with the days we spent staring at the rod for hours on end and caught nothing. Let’s be honest, everyone has days like that, and we certainly had our share.
More lessons learned
It was an absolute pearler of a day and the water was dark and smooth like velvet. It looked like the perfect time for a swordfish hunt, so we dropped our bait into the depths and waited with anticipation. A few hours later the line started ticking slowly off the reel, as subtly as an elephant eating a peanut, and not what you’d expect from such an aggressive beast, but it’s how they can bite at times.
The hook-up was typical of a broadbill, and it soon came up to see what was going on. However, within 30 minutes it turned into a purely vertical fight, the stubborn fish holding below the boat at 40 metres. So I threw my Shimano Tiagra into the slower ‘granny gear’ and wound in every centimetre I could, but the fish always took back every one I gained.
Broadbill often circle deep down, so we were making dramatic turns with the boat to keep my line away from the hull. At one point, the fish ran under the boat and almost pulled me overboard. I tried my hardest to keep the line away from the boat, but unfortunately it rubbed, and snap went the line, sending me flying across the cockpit.
By this stage, I had done perhaps 50 hours worth of swordfish research, spoken with numerous sword-fishing legends and seen more than 10 swords face to face. However, despite not catching a single one, we didn’t lose faith.
Close but no cigar
We set out for a big day on the water with my camera crew in tow, not for a moment imagining the sort of day it would turn out to be.
We had numerous hits on our baits, but waited until one was well and truly eaten before really cranking and hooking-up.
One hour and 45 minutes later we managed to get the sword to the surface – and it was a beauty, its girth blowing Jed’s and my minds upon rolling boat-side. As for the length, the bill was close to the driver’s window and its tail reached my 7.3m Stabicraft Supercab’s transom, so you do the math!
That’s when we knew that we weren’t going to be able to get this fish with just the two of us and our cameramen. So we called on some mates fishing close by, and Matt jumped onboard to help. We all watched as the huge fish swam away from us on the surface, its gigantic tail pushing water two metres to the left and then two metres to the right.
If you saw this particular episode, you might remember the look on my face when the hook pulled with the fish on the leader. The IGFA would class that as a caught fish, but to me it felt like a huge loss. Looking back on it, we should have stuck a tag in it and celebrated ‘capturing’ a 260kg-plus sword. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.
A new day presented new sword-fishing opportunities, so off we went again. Around 11am our bait was finally inhaled, and I had a feeling this was the one, especially as we’d brought a secret weapon with us on this trip: Jed’s dad Paul Radz.
Thank heavens we had Paul on board. He reminded us to keep calm and not rush it. I had mentally set myself up to fight this fish for six hours, and anything short of that would be a bonus. The first hour went by really fast and I was so determined not to let this fish win. Salted Caramel Tim Tams kept me going!
Then hour two passed by and I could feel the harness system really starting to cut into my flesh. I had to tell myself, ‘Nicky, this is exactly what you trained for and wanted.’ Those months of squats at the gym were finally proving their worth!
It was a tug of war where each of us had five-minute turns. I would work hard, filling up the spool, and then the fish would make a big run and leave me leaning back waiting for it to finish. There were times where the fish would run for 600m at a time and then I’d wind it all back in and we’d start again.
Then, after three hours the fish became a dead weight, and I was able to wind it all the way to the boat. Turned out it was foul hooked in the stomach, so I’d been winching it in backwards. Swordfish have incredibly soft flesh, so if I’d muscled that fish with too much drag, I probably would have lost it.
Getting the bleeding fish into the boat took half an hour; meanwhile I watched and prayed a shark wouldn’t join us for a meal. Then, with the fish secured, we went to see what it would weigh. We thought around the 150-160kg mark, so when it tipped the scales at 199kg we were all blown away.
I had always told my dad that when I caught a broadbill worth mounting, I’d do so and give it to him. Keeping my promise, the front half of the fish is now mounted on my dad’s wall.
Upping the ante
The next sword story is probably the most interesting one of all. I was lucky enough to go fishing with Mr Red Gill Lures himself, Nathan Adams. Having caught a world record Pacific bluefin tuna and the biggest black marlin ever off the west coast, as well as tagging and releasing seven swords in one day during this year’s Nationals, Nathan is a living legend and I couldn’t wait to hit the water with him.
Nobody likes a spoiler though, so I’ll let you wait for the episode in Season Three – it’s a day that’s imprinted in my brain forever!
To check out the new season of Ados Addicted to Fishing, tune in to Prime TV at 5pm Saturdays, or go to our Youtube channel to view any previous episodes for free.
In particular, if you’d like to see our swordfish episode from last season, go to www.youtube.com and search Ados Addicted to Fishing Season 2 Episode 13.
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